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Grant Arnold, Woodstock Printmaker, 1930-1940

By Bruce Weber


My final gallery talk will be Sat. Dec. 2nd at 2 p.m. at the Woodstock School of Art. I also plan to be around the gallery on the final day of the Grant Arnold exhibition on Sat. Dec. 9th from 2 to 5 p.m. to welcome and talk to visitors. An illustrated catalog featuring an essay on Arnold's activity and achievement in Woodstock is available from the school for $20 plus tax and shipping. To purchase a copy go to https://woodstockschoolofart.org/product/grant-arnold-and-the-golden-era-of-woodstock-lithography-1930-1940-catalog/ .

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After settling fulltime in Woodstock in the summer of 1932, Grant Arnold became more productive as a printmaker. He rose early in the morning at his home in the Maverick art colony in West Hurley, before his wife and printing assistant Jenny was awake, and worked for an hour or more on a lithographic stone. He also had another stone in the shop at the Woodstock Artists Association, so he always had two prints in process.


Arnold’s lithographs and most of those he printed in Woodstock relate to the American Scene Painting movement of the 1930s. Overall, the subjects include snow, woodland and industrial scenes; people shown in relaxation; recreation, or on farms; factory scenes and workers; views of water with the accompanying shoreline; and scenes at the circus, amusement parks, in churches or at theatrical, musical, and sporting events. During his years living on the Maverick he liked to picture local farmhouses and views of Overlook Mountain, but sometimes he’d travel farther afield, including to Kingston, Shady, Phoenicia, and the areas where the Ulster and Delaware Railroad went up through the mountains to various towns in the Catskills.


Arnold exhibited regularly in group shows at the Woodstock Artists Association and other venues in town. During the course of the 1930s, prints, drawings and watercolors were often displayed in a small gallery adjacent to the association’s main gallery. These showings sometimes included lithographs by Arnold and those he printed for others. In June 1934, the Kingston Daily Freeman reported that Arnold arranged a separate exhibition in the basement devoted entirely to lithographs that he had printed by Woodstock and New York artists.[1]


In 1936, Arnold had a solo exhibition of his lithographs at the Little Art Shop in Woodstock, which contained prints dating from the past three years. Among the works in the show were Graves in the Woods, Spillway, Overlook Mountain (the most recent lithograph), Snowfall, Farm House on Hill, Willow, Old Homestead, Hen House, Mountain Valley, Woodstock Interior, Hill Top, and Barns at Wittenberg. A reviewer remarked, “Mr. Arnold holds the unique position of being one of the few skilled lithographers in this country and ranks with the best in the world. . . . Besides his instructing, he has been able to continue his own art. As a craftsman he follows the entire lithographic process, making his own sketch, drawing it on the stone and doing the actual printing on his hand press.”[2] The reviewer also praised the “compositional clarity” of his lithographs, and remarked that his “completed work is a perfect blend of subject matter with the medium.”[3]


The following images are works by Arnold (with accompanying text) featured in the exhibition Grant Arnold and the Golden Era of Woodstock Lithography, 1930-1940, which, as noted, is on view through December 9th at the Woodstock School of Art.

Grant Arnold (1904-1988

December Trees, 1935

Lithograph on paper

Tyler Art Gallery SUNY, Oswego


December Trees features a road that went through Woodstock on its route to Glasco on the west bank of the Hudson River. Many of the works Arnold printed upstate for himself and others were winter scenes. Arnold explained that this was “because the configuration of the hills and the farms and the trees and the streams and the fences all were very good compositional material for winter scenes. We used to say in Woodstock in the mountains, that we had two seasons of the year, July, August and winter!"[4]

Grant Arnold (1904-1988)

Paper Mills, 1935

Lithograph on paper

Tyler Art Gallery SUNY, Oswego


Paper Mills pictures the Cantine Paper Company mill on Lower Partition Street in Saugerties, which was destroyed by fire in 1978. Arnold was “particularly impressed with the reflections of the factory in the water. The water was still, and I made a sketch of the place, then made a lithograph of it.”[5]

Grant Arnold (1904-1988)

Early Spring, 1936

Lithograph on paper

Tyler Art Gallery SUNY, Oswego


After completing his drawing for this print of a large tree standing in a field, Arnold showed it to a local farmer who inquired why he pictured a dead tree, informing him that “Live trees always have little twigs at the ends of the branches because that’s where the leaves come out, but you don’t have any.[6] On creating his drawing on stone Arnold put little twigs at the ends of the branches in order to make it look alive

Grant Arnold (1904-1988)

Cement Works, 1938

Lithograph on paper

Tyler Art Gallery SUNY, Oswego


Cement Works features a large cement plant in Rosendale, New York. In the 19th century Rosendale was the center of the natural cement world. The local industry peaked in the late 1890s, producing nearly 10 million barrels a year

Grant Arnold (1904-1988)

Freight Yards, 1938

Lithograph on paper

Tyler Art Gallery SUNY, Oswego


From the late autumn of 1936 through March 1937, Arnold worked as an artist lithographer for the Resettlement Administration in Washington, D.C. This lithograph was made from a sketch that Arnold created from memory of a scene he witnessed at this time in a local freight yard where he saw two men carrying away sacks they had filled with coal.

Grant Arnold (1904-1988)

The Old Riseley Barn, 1938

Lithograph on paper

Tyler Art Gallery SUNY, Oswego


The Old Riseley Barn pictures a building on the property of George H. Burt and Eva Riseley Burt on Rock City Road. The Arnolds rented a cottage on the property during the course of the late 1930s. The photograph of Arnold at his press that is featured in the exhibition was also taken while he was living in the house.

Grant Arnold (1904-1988)

Ashokan Reservoir, 1939

Lithograph on paper

Tyler Art Gallery SUNY, Oswego


Arnold pictured the Ashokan Reservoir from the vantage point of the top of a hill in Glenford, New York.

Grant Arnold (1904-1988)

Piano Piece, 1939

Lithograph on paper

Tyler Art Gallery SUNY, Oswego


Piano Piece originated when the Arnold lived in the late 1930s in a cottage on the property of George H. Burt and Eva Riseley Burt on Rock City Road. A friend of theirs had come to visit and Arnold made a sketch of her playing the piano in their home.

Grant Arnold (1904-1988)

St. Dunstan’s Chapel, 1940

Lithograph on paper

Tyler Art Gallery SUNY, Oswego


Arnold was friendly with Father Francis and his helper Father Victor who came to Woodstock in 1936 and rented a large cottage from the artist Zulma Steele on Route 212 east of the village. They transformed the living room into a chapel, which they named after Saint Dunstan, an English saint and patron of craftsmen. After Saint Dunstan’s burned down in 1945, Father Francis accepted the offer of Jane Byrd Whitehead, co-founder of the Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony, to preside over a chapel near the summit of Mead’s Mountain (now known as the Church of Holy Transfiguration of Christ-on-the-Mountain).

Grant Arnold (1904-1988)

Winter Peace, 1940

Lithograph on paper

Tyler Art Gallery SUNY, Oswego


Winter Piece features a section of woodland the Arnolds loved to walk during the winter months.


During the course of 1940, the Woodstock artist Edward Braddon informed Arnold that the United States Coast and Geographic Survey in Washington, D.C., was seeking to hire lithographers.[7] In mid-October of 1940, Arnold joined the agency, and initially printed nautical charts of the coastline and inland waterways of the United States. Upon leaving Woodstock, Arnold dismantled his Fuchs and Land press. Over the course of the next 30 years he devoted little time to his own work, and eventually sold the press to Philip DeLazlo, a dealer in secondhand presses.[8] Arnold spent the summers of 1941 to 1945 in Woodstock, off from working in Washington, D.C.. He was sought out as a printer at this time but did not take on clients in town.


The Arnolds’ son William was born in Washington, D.C. in September 1941. Arnold recognized that he needed to find a stable long-term source of income. His decision was in step with a change in attitude toward artistic lithography. Clinton Adams explained that a rejection around 1940 “of “printmaking—and of lithography in particular—stemmed in part from a rejection of the nationalist art and politics of the social realist painters, and in part from a rejection of the necessarily indirect technical methods, which are intrinsic to printmaking.”[9]


Arnold wanted to teach art but realized that his lack of a college degree prevented him from advancing in such a career. In 1943, Syracuse University granted the 39-year-old artist a scholarship and upperclassman status because of his experience as a printer and author. He completed his fine arts degree in three semesters and graduated in August 1944. He later received a Masters in Art in Education degree from the City University of New York.


From 1944 to 1971, Arnold taught courses in fine art, printmaking, and mechanical drawing at various junior high schools and high schools in New York State. In the course of the 1940s he was successful in finding teaching positions in high schools in nearby New Paltz and Saugerties so that he and his family lived a large part of the year at their house in Woodstock. During his summers in town, when he was off from teaching, he did not create new work and continued to turn down opportunities to print for other artists and sold impressions of older prints at the Saturday Market Fair.


In 1950, Arnold accepted a position as the art teacher at Watertown Senior High School, where he taught until retiring in 1971. Watertown is 220 miles northwest of Woodstock, and 60 miles from the Canadian border. Following Arnold’s retirement, the Arnolds moved to nearby Oswego. After arriving Arnold volunteered to help students in the lithography studio in the art department of the State University of New York at Oswego and gave an occasional lecture at the school. Eventually, he was hired as an adjunct professor. After a break from the medium for 27 years, he worked on lithographs of his own, based mostly on drawings of rooftops, rural roadways, and views of Lake Ontario. His work was printed by the head of the art department George O’Connell and a graduate student well versed in lithography, and usually made into small editions of eight prints. Arnold added his extensive knowledge. In 1972, a large exhibition of Arnold’s lithographs, watercolors, and pen-and-ink and wash drawings was held at the Oswego Art Guild.


In the 1970s, Grant and his son Bill discussed what to do with his collection of more than 350 prints of Arnold’s Woodstock related work and those he printed in town for others, all of which were sitting at his house. They considered donating the collection to the Smithsonian Institution or the New York Public Library but felt that the Tyler Art Gallery at the State University at Oswego would benefit much more.[10]


In his last years, Arnold became friendly with the artist and important writer on American printmaking Clinton Adams, who took a historical interest in Arnold’s work and achievement as a printer. Adams wrote about Arnold’s work in 1983, as well as an essay for an unpublished manuscript on the artist prepared in about 1995 by the Tyler Art Gallery. In 1986, Arnold was awarded the Tamarind Citation for Distinguished Contributions to the Art of the Lithograph. The artist died in his sleep in 1988 while recovering from pneumonia in Oswego Hospital. His was a rich and remarkable Woodstock art colony story, and a bright and fascinating chapter in early 20th-century American art.


[1] “Woodstock Artists Begin 1934 Season with Strong Exhibit,” Kingston Daily Freeman, June 20, 1934, p. 1.

[2] Grant Arnold Shows Lithographs at Little Art Shop, Woodstock,” Kingston Daily Freeman, July 10, 1936, p. 8.

[3] Ibid., p. 8. In 1936, Arnold also arranged for solo exhibitions of his prints at the New Jersey College for Women, the Rhode Island Print Club, the Southern Printmakers in South Carolina, and the Federal Art Project Gallery in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

[4] I would like to the thank Michael Flannagan, former director of the Tyler Art Gallery at SUNY Oswego, for providing a copy of Coy Ludwig’s “Interview with Grant Arnold,” which took place over the course of December 1978 to May 1979. The mention of winter scenes appears in the Arnold Interview,” on pages 75, 78-79. Hereafter this will be referred to as “Arnold Interview.”

[5]Ibid., p. 40.

[6] Ibid. p. 41.

[7] I would like to thank William and Marsha Arnold for providing me with a copy of Grant Arnold’s completed typed manuscript “Woodstock, The Everlasting Hills.” A copy of this undated manuscript is also in the archives of the Historical Society of Woodstock. Hereafter the manuscript will be referred to as “Everlasting Hills.” The quote cited is from this manuscript, page 369.

[8] Clinton Adams, “Grant Arnold, Lithographer, New York and Woodstock 1928-1940,” The Tamarind Papers, vol. 2, no. 2 (1980):p. 46.

[9] Clinton Adams, American Lithographers, 1900-1960: The Artists and Their Printers (Provo, New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 1987), p. 160.

[10] Adams, “Grant Arnold, Lithographer, New York and Woodstock 1928-1940,” p. 30.

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